Judge blocks Schwarzenegger bid to kill child-care program

A state judge Friday blocked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to eliminate a $256-million child-care program as Democratic legislators vowed to keep it operating, calling it their top priority once Jerry Brown takes office in January.


FOR THE RECORD:
State budget: In the Nov. 6 LATExtra section, an article about a state judge's blocking of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to eliminate a $256-million child-care program included only the last name of the minority leader of the state Senate, who met with Gov.-elect Jerry Brown. The sentence should have read: "On Friday, Brown met with Senate minority leader Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga) and Sen. Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) in San Francisco, offering assurances that he would not leave Republicans out of the process of solving the state's fiscal problems." —


Schwarzenegger had used his line-item veto authority to eliminate the program before signing the budget last month, saying the cutback was needed to bolster the state's reserves.

The battle over the program, which serves nearly 60,000 low-income parents, is a reminder of the tough choices Brown will face as he straddles a line between the Democratic base that vaulted him into office and the chronic deficit he is vowing to tame. Democrats have been strong supporters of many of the programs slashed in recent years.

Friday's ruling, by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Wynne Carvill, came after program advocates sued the state, arguing that the state should have automatically enrolled parents in other subsidized day-care programs if they were eligible. The program that Schwarzenegger cut serves parents who were once on welfare but now hold jobs that do not pay enough for them to afford child care.

Carvill issued a temporary restraining order until a full hearing on the case can be held Nov. 23. The judge also ordered the state to notify parents that they can be screened to qualify for other state child-care programs.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D- Los Angeles) cheered Friday's ruling as "good news for the working families and child-care providers who were jeopardized."

Pérez has scrambled to save the program, offering $6 million from his own operating budget to bridge the gap until Brown is sworn in; he and state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D- Sacramento) are hoping Brown will restore the funding.

Pérez announced Friday that he had helped secure $40 million in funding, mostly from county First 5 Commissions, which fund preschool programs with voter-approved cigarette taxes.

If money for the program is not restored, Pérez has said, working parents will be forced to abandon their jobs and go back on the welfare rolls — or leave their children unattended.

Brown was noncommittal during his campaign about whether he would restore the program's funds, and he was unavailable for comment Friday. Before the election, his spokesman Sterling Clifford had said, "We have to ask those with the biggest belts to tighten them first, but everything has to be on the table."

The governor-elect spent part of Friday continuing to educate himself about the state's fiscal situation and getting to know key lawmakers. On Thursday, Brown met with Pérez, Steinberg and others.

Thursday evening, Brown dined with Assembly minority leader Connie Conway (R-Tulare) and five other current and incoming GOP lawmakers. Among those present were Assemblymen Brian Nestande of Palm Desert, Steve Knight of Palmdale and Bill Berryhill of Ceres, each of whose fathers were once legislators Brown knew.

On Friday, Brown met with Dutton and Sen. Sam Blakeslee (R- San Luis Obispo) in San Francisco, offering assurances that he would not leave Republicans out of the process of solving the state's fiscal problems.

"He indicated he wanted our input," Dutton said.

Voters this week approved a measure, Proposition 25, that allows the Democrats who dominate the Legislature to approve state budgets with a simple majority rather than the two-thirds majority that in the past has required some Republican votes.

Conway said Brown assured her: "'I want to work with everybody. All ideas are welcome."'

Brown highlighted such inclusive politics while on the campaign trail. And he made much of his view that budget-cutting should start at the top — in the governor's office.

With frugality as the watchword of the incoming administration, Brown, who is currently California's attorney general, selected space for his transition headquarters in his Department of Justice building in Sacramento.

"It's at no cost," said Tom Quinn, a leading member of the transition team.

The state has set aside $770,000 to pay for Brown's transition, but the governor-elect said this week, "I would seriously doubt whether anything near that amount would be required."

shane.goldmacher@latimes.com

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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